Among my friends I have several whose company I really enjoy. I like to think that that is mutual. They are all men of good reason, now retired from peak levels of their chosen professions.
They have one thing in common. They profess to be atheists or at best to be on the extreme right of agnosticism or ni’hilism.
Faced with Christianity their arguments of which they have plenty, appear almost to to be a form of cheerful complacency. They either repudiate absolutely the Gospel writings of the life, death and particularly the resurrection, of Jesus or point to arguments around the Dead Sea scrolls, suggesting that they offer different meanings to the facts written in the Gospels. Yet they will not entertain the alternative possibility that perhaps it’s the Gospel content, the enduring basis of all Christian faith, that makes other documents superfluous. Some acknowledge Jesus as an historical figure but discount him on their premise that the God of Christianity or any other faith for that matter,is not a scientific possibility and is an aberration of human reasoning.This line of argument usually expands into multifarious forms of fantasy. They agree after all, that Richard Dawkins can’t be wrong!. And of course they all know what God should have done if indeed he existed!
Their disbelief is unaffected by the eyewitness accounts of the miracles, claims and teaching of Jesus.
What isn’t popular is any suggestion that with their intellect comes a responsibility to examine their position exhaustively rather than a relying upon the common arguments which confine them.
They probably know that Jesus spoke repeatedly about “The Father” his father. He said “whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” “So what?” I have heard.
The need by the Jews of a promised Messiah, the historical prophesies of Isiah and the others, followed through in the life of Christ from his birth to death on the cross, my friends prefer to see as non events. The resurrection of Jesus from the dead did not happen they say, because it couldn’t have.
From the Gospels it is clear that the apostles themselves didn’t believe it was possible at a time when they were holed up in fear of the authorities after the extreme disturbances in Jerusalem of a few days earlier . These men who had been present at what would be described as miracles today, as they accompanied Jesus for some three years, were nevertheless utterly astonished at the supernatural event of seeing Jesus alive when they had seen him captured and very really executed a couple of days earlier.
When they excitedly told Thomas, one of them who was not there at the time, he famously retorted that he needed to see the holes in Jesus’ hands and side before he would believe. When Jesus then made a further appearance in their midst and called Thomas to a reckoning to see and feel his wounds, Thomas found himself with no alternative but a declaration of his faith, strong from that day on in the carrying out of his mission. He used the immortal words “My Lord and my God.” You and I wouldn’t say that lightly would we? Yet it is this prayer of adoration uttered at every mass when the bread is raised before us having been consecrated using Jesus’s own words at the last supper “This is my body which will be given up for you. Do this in memory of me.”
I would like my friends to know more about the Eucharist, its nature and the teachings accompanying participation in it, vis-à-vis eternal life on offer.
There is I believe, no more beautiful opening paragraph to a book than that in St.John’s Gospel. The apostle and evangelist John was perhaps the closest to Jesus throughout his ministry.
I recommend a reading of it to my friends. A strong argument is always on the table about the troubles brought about by ‘religion’ through the ages. Intellectually one would expect a rational understanding that the ‘troubles’ are brought about not by the imperfections of the faith but by an imperfect practice of them by mankind.
Further opportunities for chats could perhaps have a more profound outcome if we are able to agree that a world universally at peace with universal brotherly love and Justice for all, is the ideal, because for us that is God’s will and it would be a good place to structure a way forward.